I was fortunate enough to attend two great industry events in the past month. The Global Food Forum as a guest of News Corp Rural and the inaugural Meat Business Women event – an initiative of our client The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC).
Both events had a great speaker line-up, from packaging magnate Anthony Pratt talking about critical value adding and the need to up the ante on agtech innovation spending (the USA spends $5.80pp and Aust just 12c per head), to the incredibly smart and savvy apprentice butcher Ashleigh McBean who is reshaping the image of ‘butcher’ one Instagram post (@meat_Ash) and customer engagement at a time.
I heard from Australia’s largest sheep meat processor Roger Fletcher about how important it is for each part of the supply chain to understand its own role in creating value. He talked about that much maligned product, mutton, and the good pricing it attracts versus lamb. This is testament he says to the processor knowing how to package the product the right way and finding the right customer happy to pay for it.
I was then fortunate enough to hear from Roger’s daughter Melissa Fletcher at Meat Business Women. Hugely successful in the Fletcher empire and with a larger than life personality – she was completely open and honest and shared some hard-hitting truths about growing up indigenous and the people who believed in her (her father did not see boy or girl but motivation and spirit and paved opportunity from there).
Her quote “do not water yourself down for people who cannot handle you at full strength” has a lesson in there for all of us about being our best, truest selves.
A theme that came over loud and clear at both events was the need for more education and more connection between capital cities and regional and rural populations. We need to offer more education about the sector, the value it plays in our local and global economy and what actually takes place in the long value chain and the multi-faceted businesses and skills that are required to produce our food and fibre. At its heart it is an issue of disconnection. The more we are aware – the more we can proactively do and the more informed decisions we can make – both as business people working in the industry but also as consumers.
An area where we all need to make wise – very wise choices - is in the area of food waste. It’s often said we don’t need to produce more food; we just need to stop scraping it off our plates or demanding what we grow to comply with ridiculous perfection standards even before it hits the supermarket shelf. According to OzHarvest over 5 million tonnes of food ends up as landfill each year. One in five shopping bags ends up in the bin – that’s $3,800 worth of groceries per household each year. A crazy statistic.
But more sobering on the social side of things and what I learned having lunch with Brianna Casey, CEO of Foodbank Australia, is the fact that more than 4 million Australians have experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months. It’s certainly something I want to get closer to understanding and I was encouraged to hear of the enormously generous actions of big business and brands like Arnott’s and Primo plus others who are truly stepping up to the plate, to make a difference.
It’s so important to get out amongst the many great events, field days and conferences being held across our industries. What’s piqued your interest at a recent conference? I’d love you to share!